Sunday, June 09, 2013
Laughter Is The Best Medicine
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CARTOONIST Lat’s recent advice to his fellow cartoonists to make the people laugh and be merry is applicable to all of us.
To be able to do that, said Lat, whose real name is Mohammad Nor Khalid, they must not take politics too seriously. Better yet they should be non-partisan.
I have known Lat for more than 40 years now. I first met him as a beat reporter in the early 1970s when we occasionally covered the police round together which entailed attending the twice daily police press conference at Jalan Bandar in the downtown Kuala Lumpur.
On June 1 I met Lat again. He was launching a book by cartoonist Mie entitled “Apa Cerita?” (What’s the Story?) in Puchong, Selangor. Mie, whose real name is Ahmad Hilmi Abdullah, is an architect by profession.
Lat said Malaysians are too partisan in politics and can be extreme in their political views to the point that they are unable to see the good things in life and to laugh the way he and his generation do.
Lat and I came from the same generation and were the throwback of the same “jahiliah” era – “the era of darkness” when we would rather watch Rose Chan performing striptease dance than doing drugs or be embroiled in political mud slinging.
Educated both Malay and English - in the kampungs and towns – our generation grew up to be cosmopolitan. We enjoyed the best and the worse of both worlds, and are able to laugh at ourselves.
Bloggers Were Beruk
So, when soon after that encounter with Lat, a commentator in this blog referred to politicians as “monkeys” I rejected his comment and told him not to ape politicians, recalling that in the early days of blog, a certain up and coming Umno politician had called bloggers “beruk” for being critical of the government.
Being born and bred in the village, I am all too familiar with “beruk” (stump-tailed macaque) and “kera” (long-tailed macaque), collectively called “monyet” by today’s smart-phone generation.
Then there were wild monkeys and there were tame ones. The smaller and more mischievous kera were kept as pets while the larger beruk were trained to pluck coconuts.
But there was nothing more unworthy and mischievous than the “beruk Mat Yeh”. Mat Yeh is the abbreviated version of Mat Idris. The story has it that Mat Idris was not a very good monkey trainer and his beruk turned out to be lazy, inept and extremely mischievous. It loved to make face at people as it sat unsteadily on the handle bar of Mat Deris’ Hercules brand bicycle.
Any similarity between some of today’s politicians, their apparatchiks and “beruk Mat Yeh” is coincidental although according to scientists, we share 85% of our DNA with the higher primates like gorilla, orang utan and chimpanzee.
Although I had no immediately heeded Lat’s advice when I penned the most recent post on Umno politics, I kept the spirit of his wisdom alive when I had a chit-chat – the first in many years – with the former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in a chance meeting on June 7.
So we skipped the present day politics and talked about our encounters with the first Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Rahman Putra, and his successor, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. Tunku was a jovial, frank and self-deprecating person while Abdul Razak was a serious man.
I also bumped into the former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Musa Hitam, and told him that he would live to be very old because only a day before I was ‘mengumpat’ing him.
The Malays believe when you talk about a person and you meet him soon after, that man or woman is supposed to live long. And Musa appears hale and hearty although Abdullah is a bit under the cloud.
So, in Datuk Lat’s happy spirit, let us try to be less partisan, less uptight, more tolerant and, above all, being able to laugh at ourselves.
- A KADIR JASIN
- I was born in 1947 in Kedah. I came from a rice farming family. I have been a journalist since 1969. I am the Editor-in-Chief of magazine publishing company, Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd. I was Group Editor NST Sdn Bhd and Group Editor-in-Chief of NSTP Bhd between 1988 and 2000. I write fortnightly column “Other Thots” in the Malaysian Business magazine, Kunta Kinte Original in Berita Harian and A Kadir Jasin Bercerita in Dewan Masyarakat. Books: Biar Putih Tulang (1998), Other Thots – Opinions & Observations 1992-2001 (2001), The Wings of an Eagle (2003), Mencari Dugalia Huso (2006), Damned That Thots (2006), Blogger (2006), PRU 2008-Rakyat Sahut Cabaran (2008), Komedi & Tragedi-Latest in Contemporary Malaysian Politics (2009) and Membangun Bangsa dengan Pena (2009).